Friday, December 02, 2005

Read the lines first

A letter C.S Lewis wrote to BBC producer Lance Sieveking has just been revealed online. In it, Lewis said that he opposed a film version of Aslan and ironically, expressed disdain at Disney. Lewis wrote Sieveking to say he approved of the radio serial but a 'pantomine' Aslan who is at the center of all the Narnia tales would be "blasphemy."

"Anthropomorphic animals, when taken out of narrative into actual visibility, always turn into buffoonery or nightmare," Lewis wrote. "At least, with photography. Cartoons (if only Disney did not combine so much vulgarity with his genius!) wld. be another matter. A human, pantomime, Aslan wld. be to me blasphemy."
Then again, I know christians who do not take kindly to talking animals anyway, while Lewis is nothing short of being called the devil's best-known scribe.

Back to Aslan. If you had seen Narnia’s previous screen incarnation in the 1988 BBC TV adaptation you can imagine Lewis turning in his grave. The relatively unknown cast tried hard, but the big letdown was Aslan who came across as a stuffy oversized kitten. I thought the dramatisation was quite engaging though, and was for a time promoting it among homeschoolers, and even screened a VHS copy (purchased from Video EZY) in church. Whatever merits the BBC effort possessed was severely compromised by its budget and less than passable effects. Hmm. The Lion is everything. Get Aslan wrong, and the whole thing goes south.

And, USA Today quotes a couple of professors who agree that the larger themes behind Narnia ought not be the primary attraction.

"Let story be story. Don't go explaining it," says Peter Schakel. "Don't ask kids, 'Does this remind you of something? Do you find something deeper here?' Let them discover it." Professor of English Bruce Edward says, "With Lewis, the story is the thing. You ought to read the lines first. Then you can read between them."

Well, we have started passing our books around and have also asked kids (and adults) to check the book out at the church library if they don't know what the fuss is all about. Beyond that, I hope it would stir up enough interest in Lewis's more cerebral stuff.

1 comment:

discordant_dude said...

Peter Chattaway has an interesting response to that letter - basically saying that Lewis' concerns would not have applied given today's technology. He also passingly questioned the legitimacy of this unpublished letter.

Are Narnia movies "blasphemy"?

I'm hoping to catch the show on the opening night!